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Translation of Iliad 8.553-565

Hapax Legomenon

Translation of Iliad 8.553-565

Madeleine Laupheimer, '10

This passage of the Iliad is the final thirteen lines of book eight. It comes just after the Trojans have pushed the battle right up to ships of the Achaeans, and they are settling in for the night, excited that things are going so well. I chose this passage because it is very beautiful Greek, and I felt that the more beautiful the passage was to begin with, the more beautiful I could make the English. The focus of my translation is the particular rhythm of dactylic hexameter. English meter, of course, is not based on syllable length, but on stress, and thus my translation makes long syllables in Homer into stressed beats, and short syllables into weak beats. Apart from a few lines which begin with inserted weak beats, all my strong beats are exactly where Homer's long syllables are, and my weak beats are where Homer's short syllables are. It would be impossible to put the same words in the same metrical positions in the English and the Greek - my goal is not to preserve Homer's decisions about which words to place at the end of a spondaic line. Rather my goal is for it to sound epic, to have an epic beat. I also wanted the English to sound as lyrical, rolling, and graceful as the Greek, so I alliterated wherever I could without making it sound too cute. This helps it to sound like poetry in English -it is often difficult in some translations of the Iliad to tell that it is poetry at all except for the fact that it's broken up into lines. I hope my translation is clearly poetic, and carries across the rhythm of the hexameter.

* * * * *

In happy high spirits the heroes of Troy on the edge of the war zone
Sat through the night by the numerous watch-fires burning among them.
Just as when stars in the heavens around all sides of the bright moon
Show themselves splendidly poised in the cloudless and clearing and calm air,
Lighting up all high mountains and far off jetties and vast wood
Vales, and unspeakable sweetness of air from the atmosphere bursts forth,
And all of the stars by a shepherd are seen, and they gladden his spirit,
In numbers as great, in between swift black hulled ships and the river,
Troy's watch lights burned brightly in front of the city of Ilium.
One thousand watch fires blazed on the plain, and beside every beacon
Two score and ten men sat having kindled the flames that they tended.
Close by, far-famed horses with stashes of barley and rye grain,
Chewed by their chariots waiting for morning and what day might bring.


Hapax Legomenon 2008

Hapax Legomenon 2007